What is your age?
– I am 24, almost 25. A quarter of a century – makes a girl think.
Where do you live?
– Atlanta, Georgia.
What is your profession?
– During the day, I work as a bike technician for REI. In the afternoons, I help coach a high school rowing team.
What bike do you ride?
– On the trip, I rode a Novara Safari.
What route/year did you ride with Bike the US for MS?
– I rode the TransAm route in 2018.
Do you have a connection to Multiple Sclerosis?
– Before I started the trip, I did not know of any direct connects. Through the fundraising process, I learned some of my own extended family that live with MS, as well as many of my friend’s family and friends also impacted. Not to mention, after riding in 2018, I met and befriended even more amazing people impacted by MS.
What made you want to ride your bike across the country?
– It all started one summer in college with my old Giant mountain bike. I’d had the Giant since I was ten, but, for the summer, it became my main method of transportation. Those two months really changed how I saw cycling. I began to think of it as less of an occasional hobby, and more of an activity I could incorporate into my lifestyle. Plus, it made me happy. So, I figured, what could make me happier than riding across an entire continent?
What was your cycling experience before signing up?
– I honestly didn’t have much experience in cycling until that summer with my trusty (too small) mountain bike. After that, I procured a bike that actually fit me, and started riding more around my college town. In Atlanta, where I live now, I clocked most of my pre-trip miles by taking a very roundabout route to work.
Where did you find the most success fundraising?
– I found the most success by contacting people I already knew. Reaching out through e-mails, making phone calls, and posting on Facebook helped me a lot. But, I do think the direct contact was key. People want to help and support, you just have to ask!
What was your biggest challenge while fundraising, or something that didn’t work as well as you thought it might?
– Honestly, I signed up for the trip pretty late in the game. I submitted my application in late March, so I had all of April and May to get my fundraising done, but the fundraising goal was still pretty daunting. I would have to say my biggest challenge was getting over the awkwardness of asking people to donate. To be clear, the awkwardness was all brought on by me. People were incredibly receptive and supportive whenever I talked to them about it!
Embarking on any big trip can be intimidating. What was your biggest pre-trip worry?
– My biggest worry was definitely the concern of how I would fit into the team. Not only socially (read as: how I would go about meeting 20+ new people), but also in terms of riding style and speed.
How much training did you do for your trip?
– I clocked the mandatory mileage recommended through commuting, BUT, I still didn’t train as much as I should have. Virginia was a difficult state, but I can honestly say it got everyone in shape very quickly. It’s also a very different mindset going from, in my case, commuting 25 miles and being done for the day, to riding 75 miles all in one day. It’s an adjustment, but absolutely doable!
Did you buy a bike for the trip, or was it a bike you already had?
– A little bit of both. I bought my bike way before I knew I would do the trip with Bike the US for MS with the intention of doing self-supported touring on it. However, by the time I started the TransAm, it only had one 3-day self-supported tour under its belt.
What is something you wish you’d brought, but didn’t?
– It may sound silly, but I wish I’d had closed toe shoes that weren’t bike shoes! A lot of my team mates brought crocs, and I had some chacos as my “off bike” shoes, but I personally missed being able to wear a close-toed flexible shoe.
What is one thing you brought that you couldn’t have lived without?
– My two person tent! Plenty of my team mates thrived in their one person tents, but, for me, the two person was perfect because there was plenty of room for me, AND all my gear, as I was one of those people that took most of my stuff out of my cubby every night. Honorable mention goes to my portable charging block. I got a super heavy duty one that no normal human would ever realistically need. Out west, it came in super handy for charging the electronics you absolutely must have, like bike lights.
What’s one thing you brought that you wish you hadn’t?
– I honestly can’t think of anything!
Is there anything you spent a bit more money on that you were glad you did?
– Yes! I spent much more on food than I initially thought I would. If we came across a local spot along our route that day, I’d stop at one. Especially getting into the more rural areas of Kentucky/Illinois/Missouri, it was a huge treat to eat something different from a local diner or roadside joint. It was also the fastest way to bond with teammates! I think some of my fondest memories involve sitting around a table at restaurants all across America with some of my favorite people.
Likewise, is there something you wish you’d spent more money on?
– My tires! I started off on cheap tires I used for commuting, and they were complete toast by the time we hit Missouri.
How many casual clothing items did you pack (for when you were off the bike)?
– I had two pairs of running shorts, three t-shirts (and adopted more as we went along), one pair of long pants, and one jacket.
How many pairs of cycling shorts/bibs did you bring?
What type of camping gear did you bring?
– I brought my aforementioned tent (REI quarter dome 2p, highly recommend), an inflatable sleeping pad, and a 45 degree sleeping bag.
What was your favorite trailer snack?
– I gained a real appreciation for beef jerky over the course of the trip.
How often did you go out to eat?
– I was a bit more conservative in Virginia and Kentucky, but, by the time we hit Illinois, I was already sick of my cooking. It was more than worth it to me to eat food I didn’t have to prepare or worry about fitting in my cubby. I would say if not once a day, then at least once every two days (if there were services…).
Did you bring a camp cook set?
– I did! I had a cheap camp stove (don’t even remember the brand, but it was around 20 bucks maybe), a camp pot that folded up, and a collapsable bowl and cup.
Would you cook at camp often? If so, what was your favorite recipe?
– Definitely! Even though I ate out a decent amount, I cooked at camp a lot, as well. I consumed lots and lots of food. My favorite thing to make was top ramen. Preferably the creamy chicken flavor, when I could find it. I am aware it is horrible for you, but, at the time, it’s what my body wanted, and who was I to deny myself?
What did you put in your day cubby in the rest stop van?
– I would usually have a sleeve of ritz crackers, jerky, skratch mix, and I’m sure other things at various times, but that’s what I was eating a lot of towards the end of the trip.
What type of mirror did you use?
– I had a Blackburn mirror that was the only one I could fit on my bars. I had weird trekking bars that are shaped kind of like a figure 8, so I had to get a mirror that could clamp around the side. I ended up having to fix my mirror to the bars by wrapping a shoelace through the plastic of the mirror and around the bars, but it worked!
Did you prefer to ride alone, or in a group?
– I would say I preferred riding in a group, or at least with one other person. It can be difficult finding a pace you like, but it can also be daunting to start out riding alone! I think everyone had more experience riding alone in the second half of the trip as we all became more comfortable with our abilities to read the maps.
Do you listen to music while riding?
– For sure (following the one ear bud rule, of course). I also listened to a lot of podcasts. SSDGM.
What would you keep in your bike jersey pockets?
– Really just my phone and map.
Did you use a rack/handlebar bag?
– I used a frame bag! It was perfect for me on the trip, and I continue to love it now. It could hold my bike lock, charging block, and a few other miscellaneous items.
What type of tires did you ride?
– I started off with Michelin proteks, which were a great value for their cost, and I didn’t have any problems with them, until I realized they were literally coming apart by the time we hit Farmington, MO. Luckily, there was a great bike shop there that had some hybrid-style Giant brand tires. Those lasted me the rest of the trip, and I’m still riding them now!
Did you use a bike computer?
– I did. I even used two sometimes! I always used my trusty Cateye Padrone that lived on my bike at all times (and is still kickin’), and would sometimes break out my garmin edge 25. The garmin was cool because it runs on gps, but its battery life only lasted around 6 hours. Most days, it would take me more than 6 hours to get to camp. I’m glad I had my computers, though, because they helped me a lot with navigating.
What was your normal pace?
– Honestly, when I was in shape, it was probably right around 14 mph. Built for comfort, not for speed.
How long did it take to read maps?
– It probably took me close to two weeks to understand the maps fully. Virginia and Kentucky were tough. By the time we got into Illinois and Missouri, I was comfortable enough to set off on my own if I felt like it.
Riding on a flat terrain with a headwind, or climbing a mountain pass for miles. Which do you prefer?
– Wow, what beautiful choices. I’m trying to think back to what annoyed me more, haha. I can definitely remember some ridiculous headwinds in Kansas that were plain absurd, and while I am very slow at climbing, I at least know at the end you have to go down again. I think I’ll go with climbing the mountain pass.
Would you rather be riding through cold rain or extreme heat?
– I’d say extreme heat. The heat is tough, but, in my experience, we dealt with heat on a wider scale than we dealt with cold and rain. The one time we had to deal with freezing rain in Utah, I had a pretty hard time. Luckily, it was towards the end of the day and we were fortunate enough to be sleeping inside that night.
What was the most physically challenging segment or state for you?
– Definitely the last few days of Virginia and into eastern Kentucky. By far the hardest both physically and mentally for me.
Were you an early riser, or rolling out of camp late?
– Here’s the thing…I feel like so many of my team mates were EXTRA early risers. Not that I necessarily rolled out of camp *late*, but, perhaps, most of the time, I was in the last group heading out that morning. Maybe.
What’s the first thing you did once you got to camp every day?
– If we were camping, I’d grab my tent and find a spot to set up. If we were in a community center/church I’d also try to find a spot, preferably by a power outlet.
How often would you do laundry?
– Since I had three pairs of cycling shorts, I’d do laundry generally every three days. Sometimes, that meant doing communal laundry with a few of my teammates at a local laundromat. Other times, I’d just do it in the sink with Dr. Bronner’s soap (which is an all-purpose cleaning agent, also highly recommend).
How many sink/hose showers did you take?
-Not too many sink showers, as our route leaders had a great talent for finding hose hookups. Definitely took my fair share of hose showers, though.
It’s the evening and you’re out of your bike clothes, fed, and your tent is pitched. What are you doing to pass the time until you fall asleep?
– Definitely hanging out with one or many of my awesome teammates. They’re some of the coolest people I have the privilege to know.
On rest days, did you prefer to go out and see what the town has to offer, or did you hang out, rest up, and relax?
– I definitely wasn’t trying to paint the town red on our rest days, but a group of us might get into at least one fun thing! For example, in Carbondale, IL, a group of us went to see Incredibles 2 on the afternoon of our rest day. We got the last 4 tickets in the entire theater and had to sit extremely far away from each other. It was awesome.
Did you keep a journal or blog during the trip?
– I did bring a journal. I kept up with it in the first week or two, then fell off. I continued to chronicle our journey through pictures, and that became my way of remembering places and things.
What’s your favorite memory from the trip?
– Goodness. It’s nearly impossible to pick just one. I have so many great memories with everyone from the trip! I often think back to when we stayed in Hite, Utah, which is officially classified as a ghost town. It was so remote that the only people around aside from the 10 locals were our group. We talked, played games, and goofed off all evening. Nothing particularly remarkable happened, but it’s probably one of the most objectively “lonely” places I’ll ever be, and I didn’t feel alone in the slightest.
Do you keep in touch with many of your teammates?
– Yes! They’ve become some of my closest friends. I have even been lucky enough to see a handful of my teammates since the trip concluded.
What was your favorite service project?
– I thought the service project in Cedar City, Utah was very neat. We got to work alongside members of the local LDS church there, who also let us camp on the property of their church.
Do you feel like you are more aware of the impact MS has on the lives of those affected by it?
– I am definitely more aware, but still have so much to learn. The trip really opened my eyes to just how much MS can affect not only the person diagnosed with it, but the people around them.
What was your biggest takeaway from the trip?
– What humans have in common is so much stronger than the differences that can divide us. We’re all trying to navigate life, and no one has all the answers. When we work together and love and support the person next to us, we can all accomplish so much more than we ever could alone. I realize this sounds cheesy as all heck, but I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it fully. My summer with Bike the US for MS taught me more than I knew I was ready to learn. If you’ve made it all this way and are still reading this, you’re ready to give it a shot. See you in 2019.